Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Magic III

Magicians tend to focus on deception as if it is the essence of their skills. It's an attitude often reinforced by audiences who have learned to expect very little from magic acts. If a magician manages to fool his audience, most accept that he has done his job - just as if a juggling act is great because the performer didn't drop any balls or a singer is wonderful because she didn't hit any clinkers. With the expectations set so low, most magicians are happy to descend to them.

Like many other kids I probably became interested in magic for misguided reasons, wanting to learn various tricks because they imparted secrets and hoping these secrets might award me a special status among my friends. In books of tricks the recipe is specific - here's the effect and here's the method - implying that executing and concealing the secret is always the ultimate goal of the exercise.

The magician David Devant wrote:

At the risk of offending many proficient conjurers, both amateurs and professionals, I make bold to state that magic does not consist in a few so-called secrets, which can be mastered by any intelligent person within a few hours. To say a man who can show a few tricks is a conjurer is about as absurd as to say that a man who can recite "The Merchant of Venice" by heart is an actor.

I regard a conjurer as a man who can hold the attention of his audience by telling them the most impossible fairy tails and by persuading them into believing that those stories are true by illustrating them with his hands or any object that may be suitable for the purpose.

If magicians have unfortunately come to view their art as deception, they must recognise that used car salesmen , advertising executive and politicians are also artists of deception. In fact, there's not very much art in a pure deception, the big lie or exaggeration. It's true that, at times, magicians might require something just this simple or bold. But usually the deception in a magic act is the negative element, the hole in the middle of a performance. The performance is a sort of inadvertent dance around this hole, with the hope that each spectator will be coaxed to slip through it.

The English landscape painter John Constable once insisted that his art "pleases by reminding, not deceiving." It's the same with magicians. The real art is in the subtle touches of reassurance that surround any deception and disguise it as a positive thing. With a gesture, a suggestion, a feint or a contrivance, the audience is convinced that they are watching a genuine wonder. Great magicians aspire to creating this temporary fantasy.

The end result becomes a little work of theatre, a play with a simple plot that exists on a fairy tale level. The fantasies of a magic show can often be appreciated in everyday life: causing someone to disappear, becoming someone else, acquiring the ability to escape or walk through a wall. The play might be seconds long or be elaborately written to include a full story.

Hiding The Elephant

How Magicians Invented the Impossible

Jim Stein Meyer

Arrow Books 2005

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SUI Studios Recording 19/12/09-20/12/09

"Oh yeah, give it to a bone yard..."

"The minor left is all the difference made"

"I am a passenger"

"Enough to raise the roof"

A very big thank you to Dan at SUI Studios for making these sessions so extremely effortless for us

"As the smoke rises up"

(a minute after this photo was taken this ancient keyboard emitted some actual smoke!)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Magic II

Posting the excerpt from Hiding The Elephant (a book that communicated far more to me than a few magic trick spoilers, and manages to come off as part mystery thriller, part historical document, part love letter to a bygone golden era - all the while reminding one of that which is important in terms of performance and process) a couple of weeks ago, dislodged a memory that I had not accessed for some time:

I must have been eight or nine and a new kid arrived at our school. He was gangly and shy but with a very generous heart and great sense of humour and we seemed to hit it off straight away, as we shared some similar interests. The clincher was his hobby in magic!

I had recently acquired a book of magic tricks and was putting together a small repertoire. I had also received a magic set as a Christmas present from my parents. Unlike the simple homemade gimmicks I had built from the magic books I had read, the magic set came with great promise. All the tricks were housed in a cardboard box with glossy finish, showing top hat, silk scarves and interlinked metal rings and all the various other accoutrements that signified a 'real' magician at work. The interior was a different story altogether. Just like those pictures of hamburgers on fast food menus when compared to the actual edible artifact, the contents of the box of magic tricks were undersize, cheap looking and altogether disappointing. At least half the tricks in the box were ones that I knew already and the other half were cheap plastic gimmicks that could not stand up to the most surface of scrutiny. There was at most one decent gag in the whole bunch; three different lengths of rope that are transformed in three identically length pieces of cord. It required the most practice, relied on no custom gimmicks and was easily the jewel in a rather shabby crown. Still, some of these cheap plastic trinkets did somehow seem to provide me with at least a modicum of authenticity.

I just didn’t get it

My new found friend was to provide me with one better: a father who was a bona fide magician! I remember the first time I saw him. He had come to pick up his son from my house and was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and slops. He wasn't very mysterious, but then he was only a part time conjuror, you see. I think he was a chartered accountant during the day. My friend was having a birthday party soon at his house and the entertainment was to be his father's magic show. This is where he would surely transform into a more believable magical character?

Again, I was disappointed as he stood in front of about 30 other kids in a warm suburban Saturday afternoon again attired in the aforementioned t-shirt, shorts and slops while he ran through his sequence of tricks, sometimes including his wife in on the act for the more large scale illusions like the 'zigzag lady'. It was ok, nothing I hadn’t seen before elsewhere but I felt that he was holding back and that there was some arcane magic that we just weren't ready for.

I just didn’t get it

One afternoon at my friend’s house, while thoroughly bored we went outside and I asked what was in one of the spare rooms in their house. This was a spare room where his father kept all his old magic gear from years back and he (my friend) was not allowed inside and had never ventured in.

"You're kidding right?"

My powers of persuasion were obviously pretty good or my friend had just been waiting for an excuse and the right partner in crime to come along because we very quickly decided to make getting onto that room our little project for the afternoon. Whether we sourced a key, pried open a window or squeezed in through burglar bars, I cannot recall but we managed to get into the room without raising any alarm or breaking anything. I guess a lot of rooms that look pretty impregnable are quite easy to into (or out of) if you put your mind to it.

Inside was where our friendly neighborhood magician was hiding the goods. The room was literally bursting with the stuff of real magicians. Different colored silk scarves big enough to wrap a small child in tumbled out of half open chests, splayed walking sticks showing off their concealed bouquets of plastic flowers, top hats, different sized foam balls strange jugs emblazoned with rabbits and dragons and other signifiers of authenticity littered the entire room. Neither of us knew where to look first and just stood frozen trying to take it all in.

I eventually got on all fours to try getting a closer look at some of the prepared playing cards lying on the floor and noticed a file of old yellowed books on magic under the couch. I carefully lifted one up and began scanning its yellowed pages. Inside were tricks I’d never seen on any stage let alone in any book, now all forgotten, save for one explaining how to rip an entire phone book apart with your bare hands.

Eventually we had to leave and take care that nobody would learn of our intrusion. We each decided to take a small memento that would not be missed. The books and the silk scarves were tempting but were sadly off limits. In the end I opted for a small card containing transfers of a rabbit in a hat that could be put on various boxes water jugs and cones. Just something to communicate that you really meant it, that you were serious about this whole magic thing.

I never used them, just placed them in the box with the rest of my magic tricks hoping they would act as a talisman of some sort and just raise the overall class of the stash somewhat as they had belonged to a real magician.

I just didn’t get it

The following year my friend moved town, I watched David Copperfield on television flying across the Grand Canyon towards a singing Bonnie Tyler and promptly packed my box of tricks into storage for good.

I now perform feats of misdirection for my small dog using nothing but a ball

He seems genuinely astounded.

I think I finally got it.

Happy Hunting...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'I Will Rise Up' on Other Mother Podcast

Ramon Galvan's song 'I Will Rise Up' is available streaming on Other Mother Podcast Episode 4

Along with tracks from Us Kids Know, Sticky Antlers and others

Previous podcast have featured Givan Lotz, Ampersand and Kidoddoom.

Visit Other Mother Website here to find out more about them

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Magicians guard an empty safe.

In fact there are few secrets they possess that are beyond the capacity of a high-school science class, little technology more complex than a rubber band, a square of mirrored glass, or a length of thread: When an audience learns how its done, they quickly dismiss the art: "Is that all it is?"

The real art is how the rubber band is handled with the finesse of a jewel cutter, how the mirror is used or concealed precisely, how a masterful performer can hint at impossibilities that are consummated with only a piece of thread. Magicians understand the careful interactions of secret and performance and have learned to appreciate the art for these subtleties. But casual observers, eager to diagnose the gimmick, or solve the deception, focus on the uninteresting part and are quickly disappointed, the same way that one can always turn to the final pages of a mystery novel.

The success of a magician lies in the making of a human connection to the magic, the precise focus that creates a fully realised illusion in the minds of an audience. the simple explanation is that seldom do the crude gimmicks in a magic show - those mirrors, threads or rubber bands - deceive people. The audience is taken by the hand and led to deceive themselves.

Jean Robert-Houdin was famous for the opinion that a magician is actually just "an actor playing the part of a magician". It was an especially important decision in separating the loud mountebanks on the street corner making balls appear and disappear beneath three metal cups from Robert-Houdin's elegant Parisian deceptions. Today it servers to remind us that a magic show is a piece of theatre, and the Frenchman's analogy can be extended: A magic effect is a short play that simulates a supernatural occurrence. Like any real play there are characters and a developing plot. There is a progression, or an arc, to the action. There is a surprise and a resolution, which not only completes the audience's expectations, but builds upon them.

Just as no actor would attempt to walk on a stage, instantly begin crying, and expect to move an audience to tears, no real magician thinks that a performance consists of flapping an Inverness cape and - poof! - causing a lady to disappear. It only works that way in comic books. A great magic performance consists of a collection of tiny lies, in words and deeds, that are stacked and arranged ingeniously to form the battlement for an illusion. It's a delicate battle of wits - an audience that welcomes being deceived, then dares to be fooled, alternately questioning, prodding and surrendering. A great magician always seems to play catch-up to their thoughts but secretly must stay two steps ahead - not only solicitous and anticipating, but suggesting.

Hiding The Elephant

How Magicians Invented the Impossible

Jim Stein Meyer

Arrow Books 2005

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Post Rock Community Outer Tumbolia Album Review

Ramon Galvan is a featured artist on Post Rock Community music blog

There is is also a review on the blog for Outer Tumbolia

"Each song is a new trip to new targets"

"a voice which reaches every cell in your body"

"postrockish arrangements, tones à la A Silver Mt. Zion, jazzy percussions, melodicas, cellos, glockenspiel, electronic elements and many many more..."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Last Hunters

But Rose, who goes to sea to study the northern stock, said, "Fishermen are seeing many strange things that are a sign things are not right." The cod have been reaching sexual maturity younger and smaller. Undersized four-year-olds are spawning. This is not surprising. When a species is in danger of extinction, it often starts reaching sexual maturity earlier. Nature remains focused on survival. But Rose also said cod were seen spawning in water temperatures of minus one degree Celsius. Cod are supposed to move to warmer water for spawning. Fishermen keep reporting aberrations, such as fish in an area where they have never been before, or at different depths, or a different temperature, or at a different time of year.

Perhaps even more disturbing, Rose's studies have concluded that the northern stock has stopped migrating. The stock had normally followed a 500-mile seasonal migration, but rose believes that after 1992, the survivors came inshore and stayed. He does not know the reason for this but speculates that bigger, older fish were the leaders and are no longer there to lead. It is also possible that cod migrate because they need food and space for spawning. With the population so reduced, this is no longer necessary.

Whatever steps are taken, one of the greatest obstacles to restoring cod stocks off of Newfoundland is an almost pathological collective denial of what has happened. Newfoundlanders seem prepared to believe anything other than that they have killed off natures bounty. One Canadian journalist published an article pointing out that the cod disappeared from Newfoundland at about the same time that stocks started rebuilding in Norway. Clearly the northern stock had packed up and migrated to Norway.

Man wants to see nature and evolution as separate from human activities. There is the natural world, and then there is man. But man also belongs to the natural world. If he is a ferocious predator, that too is part of evolution. If cod and haddock and other species cannot survive because man kills them, something more adaptable will take their place. Nature, the ultimate pragmatist, doggedly searches for something that works. But as the cockroach demonstrates, what works in nature does not always appeal to us.


A Biography of a Fish That Changed the World

Mark Kurlansky

Vintage 1999

Happy Hunting...

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The cast in order of appearence on 'You Flossed the Stars'

when to steer's uncertain

and all objectivity is gone

the only thing to do is run

you want it all you flossed the stars

when to steer's uncertain

and all objectivity is gone

the only thing to do is run

you want it all you flossed the stars

er er er er


boom boom boom
in his purse he has supernovae

research has shown this is nearly over

Happy Hunting!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

With Mouth Wide Open

The hero, Gadus morhua, is not a nice guy.

It is built to survive. Fecund, impervious to disease and cold, feeding on most any food source, traveling to shallow waters and close to shore, it was the perfect commercial fish and the Basques had found its richest grounds. Cod should have lasted forever, and for a very long time it was assumed that it would. As late as 1885, the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture sad "Unless the order of nature is overthrown, for centuries to come our fisheries will continue to be fertile."

The cod is omnivorous, which is to say it will eat anything. It swims with its mouth open and swallows whatever will fit - including young cod. Knowing this sports fishermen in New England and Maritime Canada jig for cod, a baitless means of fishing, where a lure by its appearance and motion imitates a favorite prey of the target fish. A cod jigger is a piece of lead, sometimes fashioned to resemble a herring, but often shaped like a young cod.

Yet cod might be just as attracted to an unadorned piece of lead. English fishermen say they find Styrofoam cups thrown overboard from Channel-crossing ferries in the bellies of cod.

The cod's greed makes it easy to catch, but the fish is not much fun for sportsmen. A cod, once caught, does not fight for freedom. It simply has to be hauled up, and it is often large and heavy. New England anglers would far rather catch a bluefish than a cod. Bluefish are active hunters and furious fighters, and once hooked, a struggle ensues to reel in the line. But the bluefish angler brings home a fish with dark and oily flesh, characteristics of a midwater fighter who uses muscles for strong swimming. The cod, on the other hand, is prized for the whiteness of its flesh, the whitest of the white-fleshed fish, belonging to the order Gladiforms. The flesh is so purely white that the large flakes almost glow on the plate. Whiteness is the nature of the sluggish muscle tissue of fish that are suspended in the near-weightless environment at the bottom of the ocean. The cod will try swim in front on an oncoming trawler net, but after about ten minutes it falls to the back of the net, exhausted. White muscles are not for strength but for quick action - the speed with which a cod, slowly cruising, will suddenly pounce on its prey.


A Biography of a Fish That Changed the World

Mark Kurlansky

Vintage 1999

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interview in Argus

Expanding the musical horizon October 28, 2009

By Atiyyah Kahn

Righard Kapp and Ramon Galvan are two greatly underrated names on the local music scene.

While not at all similar in sound, they do pose a challenge to anyone comfortable with the idea of "easily digestible music".

Kapp has been playing in bands since high school. Best described as a perfectionist and a conceptualist, he is recognisable by playing a right-handed guitar upside down.

He co-ordinates the annual improvised music festival, On the Edge of Wrong. His earlier musical forays were in ambient guitar music, but he became interested in looping guitars, effects and noise. Once settled in Cape Town, Kapp joined The Buckfever Underground.

On his album Strung Like a Compound Eye, Kapp focuses on acoustic guitar compositions, with a cross-pollination of concepts with artists Ross Campbell, Marcel Van Heerden, Toast Coetzer and Lee Thompson. It is co-produced by producer-engineer Dirk Hugo, whom Kapp compliments: "He really pushed me on areas I needed to work on. He is able to understand abstract concepts and put them into a concrete form."

Galvan is the ex-keyboardist and vocalist for Blackmilk. On hearing his album Outer Tumbolia my reaction was not unlike stumbling upon a secret treasure, as I imagined him hiding in some lair making music in a room full of toys.

His MySpace page describes his music as "guitars trying to sound like kalimbas". Galvan is a self-taught guitarist and has been involved in music since school.

Blackmilk started in the '90s, after sharing a flat with members from Lithium. Galvan says: "I picked up the synthesiser and we made a lot of noise, then we went our separate ways."

The idea of a solo album came about in the early 2000s and Galvan says: "After Blackmilk, I thought about doing something less noisy; more intimate. I taught myself guitar and fiddled around with things like kalimbas and put together a body of work."

Galvan writes songs on guitar, but uses many other instruments - a chandelier, a whistle, a bulbul tarang, an auto-harp and a kraakdoos - to which he shrugs, saying: "Collecting weird instruments is part of my hobby."

Tumbolia refers to the "the land of dead hiccups and extinguished light bulbs". Galvan explains: "It's a reference to where dreams go to when you wake up. There is a sparseness to the album. Some of the songs are strung together with skeletons or ghosts of songs."

Both artists are signed to the Jaunted Haunts Press label, which is headed by Kapp, who also does the artwork for the albums. They spare me a bitch-session about the difficulties of being independent artists and are surprisingly positive about their songs not standing much of a chance of radio play.

Kapp comments: "Radio is a very specific kind of format. They wouldn't playlist it."

In their own ways, these two provide a challenge to the listener, something many musicians don't concern themselves with.

Kapp says: "I think the conversation about challenging music is yet to be started, as there are tons of musicians creating music like this."

Ultimately, it's about educating one's ears and Galvan and Kapp's albums are a good place to start.


Also 'Trying to Tell (Summer House)' sample stream available on channel24.co.za

The former front man from avant SA rockers Black Milk channels Scott Walker's Drift on this delicate existential blend of arcane folk and bludgeoning menace. Off his debut solo album, 'Outer Tumbolia'.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Folk II

Folklore definitions vary from country to country, epoch to epoch, scholar to scholar. The American Standard Dictionary of Folklore and Mythology alone offer twenty-one of them. All of them concur that folklore is developed and transmitted by 'the people', but neither dictionaries or professors agree on a meaning of the term that would be the same everywhere, leading Arnold Van Gennep to remark: 'What's the good of worrying about where folklore begins and end when we don't even know what categorises it?' Out of his vast experience, the best the great Belgian folklorist could suggest is that the difficulty is lessened by the kind of intuition scientists acquire though practice, so that just as a numismatist can tell true coins from false from their rough and soapy feel, the folklore specialist may 'instinctively' tell the authentic folk creation from, say the vaudeville song sung in the same company. Fortunately, intuition is not all that is left to us. Still, if musical folklore is a science, experience shows that it is subject to sudden caprices and its delineation is very hard to fix. In 1954, after long discussion, the International Folk Music Council adopted this definition:

Folk music is a product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. the factors that shape the transmission are: (i) continuity, which links the present with the past; (ii) variation, which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

The term can be applied to music that has evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by contemporary or art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of the community.

The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and the re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character.

Folk Song in England

A.L. Lloyd

Lawrence & Wishart Ltd 1967

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Keeping good company on the wire(less)

Playlisted on Pseu Braun's show on 16th Oct on WFMU with the likes of Atlas Sound, Robert Wyatt, Tickley Feather, Sun Araw, Mika Vainio, Dodos and the post This Heat, Flaming Tunes!

Playlist online

Update: Bob W's show played 'No Rest' on same day

WFMU-FM is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station broadcasting at 91.1 Mhz FM in Jersey City, NJ, right across the Hudson from lower Manhattan. It is currently the longest running freeform radio station in the United States.

The station also broadcasts to the Hudson Valley and Lower Catskills in New York, Western New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania via its 90.1 signal at WMFU in Mount Hope, NY. The station maintains an extensive online presence at WFMU.ORG which includes live audio streaming in several formats, over 8 years of audio archives, podcasts and a popular blog.

Also made an appearance in-studio, some months back on The Unhappy Hour on Bush Radio 89.5 FM. Righard Kapp and me both. We chatted with Toast who was DJ-ing that night, performed live on-air with our acoustic guitars, played some tunes off our respective albums and played songs from our own favorite CD's. Righard played some Tortoise and Andre Van Rensburg and I played some Linda Perhacs and Francis Bebey, but more about him another time...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Folk I

What are we to understand by 'folk'? A whole nation, with or without minorities? A single class (the lower class)? A section of that class (country workers)? In those parts of Western Europe and America where class distinctions, thought real enough, are rather blurred, some people, specialists as well as amateurs, have taken 'folk' to mean the nation, all classes, upper, lower, urban, rural, regardless of social, historical or spiritual differences. This was the view of German romantics of the time of Goethe and Herder and with modifications it has gone in and out of fashion several times since (in America at the moment it is rather 'in'). It is a permissible view in the attenuated sense that we are all bearers of some sort of folklore, if only in the form of the dirty story, apparently an indestructible type of oral 'literature'. The trouble is, such a prospect extends too easily to a boundless panorama going beyond all reasonable definition, so that in the field of song for instance any piece that has passed widely into public circulation is identified as 'folk', especially if one can pretend it somehow expresses part of the essential character of the nation. Thus, Silcher and Heine's 'Die Lorelei' is exhibited as folk song, likewise 'The bonnie bank o' Loch Lomond' (words and tune by a Victorian aristocrat, Lady John Scott), Stephen Foster's 'Old folks at home', and more recently with even slenderer titles, Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' in the wind'. To say nothing of Pottier and Degeyter's 'Internationale'. By this time we are not far from the vague contours suggested by Louis Armstrong's dreary axiom: 'All music's folk music: leastways I never heard of no horse making it.'

Against this broad and hardly manageable 'popular' view of folk song as national song is set the restricted picture offered by several scientists of musical folklore who follow Bartók in considering the term 'folk song' to be synonymous with peasant song, and who maintain that no other part of the nation but working farmers and farm labourers are true shapers and bearers of traditional verse and melody.

It is worth considering how
Bartók came to this opinion for his conclusions are paralleled by those of Cecil Sharp, though Sharp's are by no means so firmly based. As a very young man Bartók was among those who thought that national music and folk music were one and the same. In 1896, while he was still in his teens, Hungary celebrated it millennium in a fever of nationalism that lasted for several years. Kodály has described the time. Everything was to be Hungarian not Austro-German: Hungarian words of command in the army, a Hungarian coat of arms on every post office, a Hungarian anthem to replace Haydn's Hapsburg hymn. he young Bartók wore Hungarian costume, then back in fashion, even on the concert platform. In his search for a Hungarian style of composition freed from German influence he was attracted to the verbunkos idiom of of the gypsy orchestras imagining, as Liszt had, that this was folk stuff; whereas in fact the repertory of the gypsy bands is principally made up of fanciful treatments of tunes composed from the mid-nineteenth century onward by educated amateurs of aristocratic or bourgeios birth; and though this kind of light popular air is often taken for Hungarian folk song, the real thing is vastly different, as Bartók discovered when he set off with his long-horned Edison recording machine to collect peasant songs in the Szekely-Hungarian villages of Transylvania

Folk Song in England

A.L. Lloyd

Lawrence & Wishart Ltd 1967

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Then and Now

This is a notion of Kirchner's to demonstrate an acoustical effect. A metal bar is suspended by a thick gut string held to the ears. The sound of the bar being struck by a metal rod should seem to the hearer like the tolling of a very large bell.

Plate 145 152 Plates from Bonanni's 18th Century "Gabinetto Armonic" Antique Musical Instruments and their Players 1964 Dover Publications N.Y.


"Once I found a stone that was brown, irregular and very smooth. It was heavy, and looked a bit melted. I remember showing it to a wise, old, bearded rock-hound pastor from Morristown, Minnesota. Reverend Zimmerman's house and life were filled to overflowing with interesting stuff he had collected in his lifetime. When he saw my brown stone, his bushy eyebrows twitched, He looked at me and said 'Son, this is a meteorite - a star' That stone became special to me and I carried it around to surprise all my friends. I was the boy with stardust in his pockets."

Reinhold Marxhausen grew up in the 1920's and 1930's, the son of a pastor and one of eight children in Vergas Minnesota. He played the musical saw, he played water-tuned bottles, and he found piano lessons boring. He carried stardust in his pocket.

After military service, followed by degrees in art and biology, Marxhausen took a teaching position at Concordia College in Seward Nebraska, where he remained until his retirement in 1990. It was in 1962 that he first began to work with sound objects. "It was a boring Saturday at the sculpture studio; no plans for the day," he recalls. "I found a door knob on the table and welded some wires on one end just for the fun of it. I placed the door knob to my ear and strummed the wire on the opposite end."


Since his discovery, Marx has made a wide variety of sound sculptural forms, and he has developed the door-knob idea in two main directions. One form consists of objects with exposed, external spines. some of the most successful have been his manual walkmans, (below) made like a pair of headphones, with spines sticking out from the metal ear pieces and sometimes rising from the over-the-head connecting piece. They make a stereo concert of lovely sounds, on a minuscule one person scale.

The other form is a small, chunky, metal object, fully enclosed, with no hint of what is inside. Sound comes from within when you shake or rock it, audible only when you hold it close to your ear. What is in there? Marx is not telling.

The objects are just pocket-sized and, recalling the meteor of his childhood, Marxhausen has given them the name Stardust. He makes them as plain in appearance as can be; they look like worn and dirty stones. There's a Marxhausen message in his having put so lovely a sound in such a homely thing.

Gravikords Whirlies and Pyrophones

Bart Hopkin

1996 Ellipsis Arts

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Galvan Trio Live at Obz Theatre 26/08/09

Click on images to enlarge

Photos: Alryn Culwick

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Strange Loops

Bach Canon forward and reverse on a Mobius Strip

Strange Loops

An Eternal Golden Braid

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Miscellaneous Links

An article online in Die Burger culled from an interview with Righard Kapp and Ramon Galvan shortly before both the launch of their respective albums Strung Like a Compound Eye and Outer Tumbolia

"Eintlik is ons die twee skaamste ­dudes in die wêreld"

Elsewhere, Righard is interviewed and reviewed on www.mahala.co.za on his album and the other Jaunted Haunts Press Releases.

"And of course what ties the artists together is an uncompromising dedication to their creative vision."

Music blog The Glass Forest reviews Outer tumbolia here

"This album is nostalgic and modern in one breath - timeless, true, emotional."

"The minimalistic sound of the guitar added by trumpet or other instruments and the dramatical voice lie in front of you like a wide carpet reaching beyond the horizon."


Monday, September 14, 2009

No Rest

No Rest

A sense, calling jest
To see
A note to remind me

No Rest
Too fast here
No Rest

Are all in shreds
Troops have fled

No Rest
No Rest

Promise me

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Real Peach

Recent surveys reveal that a significant number of consumers prefer crunchy peaches bred to have a hard, cargo-truck friendly exterior. Most of us have never tasted a good peach, let alone a downy pastel orb bursting with sweet nectar when plucked right from the tree. As Marshall McLuhan pointed out, we've become so removed from reality that we're starting to prefer artificiality. Part of the reason we think fake is fine is the narrow selection. Turgid peaches aren't even sold in supermarkets, mainly because they can't be shipped. Ken Slingerland, a peach breeder for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, positively loathes juicy peaches. "They squish all over your face," he told me. "We believe that consumers would rather have a peach that's like a nice crunchy apple. Everyone has their preference, and the texture I like is 'crispy.'" Another farmer I spoke to referred to industrial peaches as "plastic Kraft dinner fruit created by dead brains."

Perhaps the crunchers believe the only alternative is mushy, insipid peaches. But peaches exist that are light-years better than anything we're being sold. Some growers refer to those as "chiropractic fruits," because they're so juicy you need to bend over when eating them. But maybe you'll like crispy best too. As a new peach campaign asks: "Are you a Cruncher, Leaner, or In-betweener?"

If you haven't, try a real leaner peach before making up your mind. As David Masumoto, farmer and author of Epitaph for a Peach, writes of the variety grown on his family's land: "Sun Crest is one of the last remaining truly juicy peaches ... so juicy that it oozes down your chin. The nectar explodes in your mouth and the fragrance enchants your nose." Juiciness doesn't mean that the fruit is totally soft; on the contrary, texture is very important. According to stone-fruit expert Andy Mariani of Andy's Orchard in Morgan Hill, California, should have "pleasant resistance," a firmness that yields to sufficient pressure. Only after our teeth force through the cell walls should the fruit open its floodgates. "It can be an almost sexual experience for some people," says Mariani.

The texture and flavor of Mariani's Baby Crawford peach is a kaleidoscope of sweetness, acidity, some astringency - pure peach ecstasy. "It looks hard, but melts in your mouth. It just oozes nectar," he says. Masumoto, blown away after tasting the Baby Crawford, acknowledges that its even better than the Sun Crest.

I tasted enough Baby Crawfords to go dizzy when I visited Andy's Orchard in the summer of 2005. The following year when I called Mariani to check in on the peaches, he sadly informed me that heavy rains and warmer than usual weather had destroyed the entire crop. "The search for the perfect peach is elusive," he said. "It's good for a moment, then a few days later it's gone. Its hard to grow. Nuances in humidity and temperature over one night can drastically affect quality." No wonder growers use any means at their disposal. The fact that fruits ever make it to us is almost heroic.

- From The Fruit Hunters
A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession

Adam Leith Gollner

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tim Friese-Greene - 10 Sketches for Piano Trio

Tim Friese-Greene

10 Sketches for Piano Trio

As part architect of a large proportion of Talk Talk's body of work which included the groundbreaking Spirit of Eden as well as the grand consolidation of Laughing Stock, Friese-Greene's new album is an enticing prospect. The pot is further sweetened by the involvement of Phill Brown who engineered the aforementioned albums as well as former Talk Talk singer Mark Hollis's sole solo (sans TF-G) project.

While Hollis sought to further refine the latter day Talk Talk blueprint by using only acoustic instruments (The band's initial culling of sound sources had expelled all synthesisers after making Color of Spring) and upping the woodwind quotient, with songs that were thought through but not overworked, TF-G had taken a more maximalist approach in more pop and loop based compositions in his solo capacity as Heligoland until now.

The arrival of an album of 'sketches' with a basic lineup of piano, drums and bass hinted at something that may lean closer to Hollis's eponymous conclusion. While both at times resemble forms borne of improvisation, TF-G's is the altogether more 'jazzy' affair. This is due both to the absence of a more rock or folk orientated guitar presence that may create the necessary ambiguity of style as well to the piano chord voicing and phrasing employed. Described by TF-G as a series of improvised sketches where piano parts were then overlayed with bass and drums by himself using the hindsight of the initial form, these songs are pleasing for their immediacy and their brevity. It is really this compactness that severs their connection with the jazz idiom, not relying on any establishment and repetition of phrases or themes, and solos.

If anything I am reminded to a very stripped down acoustic version of Tortoise side project Isotope 217 who also appropriated jazz and funk styles in aid of their more structured post rock forms.

It is also this brevity that is perhaps this album's undoing to some degree. Without the necessary space and time for development and risk there is little life left in these pieces once the thought is completed. Much like the photo of TF-G in the liner notes showing him, back to the viewer, recording piano in a small makeshift studio space where he and his instrument are vying for space with assorted junk including a child's inflatable boat, the songs are at times too constricted by a simple set of parameters and a fairly singular goal.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Better Late Than Never - Drum's Not Dead

When this album was released in 2006 I was not listening to a lot of new music and tend to have a knee jerk reaction towards critical darlings. On a whim I recently purchased Liars' Drum's Not Dead. Here is a review:

Liars have diverted Boredom's krautrock inspired symphonies to the sun from Super AE and Vision Creation Newsun and funnelled them down an altogether darker, danker tunnel to blend further with the bruised instrumental protest postpunk of This Heat and the more whimsical dub goth of the likes of Bauhaus.

What is arguably a rather weak attempt at a concept album in terms of subject matter, if nothing else, does indicate to the listener to consider the collection of songs as a whole. This is further bolstered by the near perfect suite-like sequencing, timing and variety of songs over its 47 minutes. This alone sets the album apart from the current mp3 obsessed market. Liars have also provided the album in a total of 4 separate formats: audio only and 3 different album length video treatments. While serving as part making-of-documentary, live footage and assorted hotel room hijinx, these videos again guide the listener to immerse themselves for the long haul.

The near perfect opening trifecta of drum dominated tunes segue smoothly into one another and are a masterclass in less-is-more arrangement aesthetic. Skeletoned by simple but effective primal and martial drumming, additional elements (vocal shrieks, snake charmer falsetto, droning guitar) are artfully added, blended and removed so as to provide constant variety without losing economy. The glue to Drum's recipe is often the addition of heavily affected drums, either distorted or reverbed so as to render them almost unrecognisable, as a separate instrument within the mix.

By the time the album centrepiece, It Fit When I was a Kid is reached several hills (mountains?) of drum barrage and plateaus of guitar drone nirvana have been traversed. The tom roar and gormless vocal chant led song, strangely reminiscent of mid 90's Massive Attack dread paranoia, gives rise to a beautiful coda of organ and keening Robert Wyatt type vocals, whose melodic ideas
are again subtly referenced on the following track. A series of more disjointed, but captivating song sketches, studio experiments and tone poems usher in the final third.

Thereafter, the effected drums make an energetic and welcome return this time sounding like they are powered by pistons instead of humans. Drum and the Uncomfortable Can especially coming off like a distant cousin of Einsturzende Neubaten's 'ZNS'.

Closer, The Other side of Mt Heart Attack carries all the throw-away sentimentality of Bauhaus's 'Crowds' and is suitably cobbled together to not come off too precious but to merely serve as a small celebration for getting through Liars' epic mind fuck.

Liars have made rock 'n roll great and mythical again without resorting to tired swords and sorcery cliches.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Rupture

The Rupture

When its cold and dark
I'll field forests
Twos cum in forests

When we're old and gnarled
I'll seek mountains
With wider passes
For turning round

Bitter cold
The first freight, nervous
And similar the ice-breaker

To break this blanket white
And sail on through the night
Or a sign for turning round

The Rupture

When we're young
We'll run circles 'til they come and fetch us
Or carve our names any place they let us
Disguising all our features given
Now I carve a path back home,
to whittle down my feathers
I'm embarressed:
Got a headdress full of daggers

What became of you?
Did you cum at all?
Did you learn to swim when you waded in?

I put these thoughts aside
I'm thankful for the ride
Until the time that we decide

The Rupture

And grey might be
The only shade on sunshine
I see graze the ground
And as grey silvers on,
I told you that I loved you and I never lied

The singer skipped a whole verse
A chasm super wide
A proper bridge would splinter
A banquet would be meager pickings

Did you honestly think you had to read between the lines?
There wasn't enough space to fit whats unsaid in a rhyme
So just be cool and focus on more pleasurable times
And only know I loved you and I never lied

Happy hunting...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Avant Folk Myths

Gavlan Trio will be performing Wednesday 26 Aug '09 at around 9pm.
We will be playing a short set of songs mostly from 'Outer Tumbolia'


Friday, August 21, 2009

Press Coverage for Jaunted Haunts

Press coverage for Jaunted Haunts in Design Indaba Magazine

Independent music producer, subterranean screenprinter, illustration maniac, guitar anarchist, poster activist and improvisational upstart, Righard Kapp recently released four albums on his garage label Jaunted Haunts Press. Besides the reissue of Ella Joyce Buckley’s For Astrea, the long-awaited release of the Buckfever Underground’s live album Limbs Gone Batty, and Ramon Galvan’s debut album, Outer Tumbolia, Kapp also released his own album, Strung Like A Compound Eye. Simultaneously summing up all four albums and his visual prerogative, Kapp describes his album as “an argument for the broadening of aesthetic horizons in a time when variety, though technologically feasible, is remarkably absent from our prescribed media diets”.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You Flossed The Stars

You Flossed The Stars

When to steer's uncertain

And all objectivity

Is gone

The only thing to do is run

You want it all

You flossed the stars

You want it all

You flossed the stars

In his purse he has supernovae

Research has shown this is nearly over

Monday, August 17, 2009

Outer Tumbolia - Mail & Guardian review

It has been a while since the South African music scene has heard from Ramon Galvan, the former vocalist and keyboard player from the avant-rock band Blackmilk. Great news then, that he has a debut solo album out on Righard Kapp’s Jaunted Haunted Press and it’s amazing too.

Outer Tumbolia is an album filled with delicate off-kilter emotional outpourings that at first listen can come across as emotionally draining. However, I found that with every further listen, my heart warmed just a little more to his songs of loss and longing.

While Galvan’s vocals remind me of Antony Hegarty, without all the grandiose pomp, the music consistently reminded me of John Cale’s work.

Luminarc which, features Kapp on guitar loops, is a gem of a song, while The Rupture which, features Galvan on kalimba, music box and melodica, is an album highlight too. However Galvan saves the best for last, an incendiary collaboration with Benguela drummer Ross Campbell on its dramatic closer No Rest, where Galvan croons along to the Kalimba, while Pierre du Plessis delivers waves of feedback and Campbell offers up some jazzy percussion.

Get this immediately and catch Galvan on a national tour with Kapp and Benguela soon.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bulbul Tarang

The instrument that I am playing in the picture above is a Bulbul Tarang, which means "waves of nightingales". It sounds like anything but a nightingale, in fact its other name, the "Indian Banjo" is perhaps a rather crude but more apt description in terms of what it sounds like.

In Japan, a similar instrument exists called a Taishogoto, while the German Akkordolia operates in a similar manner.

Like the autoharp it is an instrument often used by the more untrained musician and in the bulbul's case also by the elderly in large ensembles as a form of occupational therapy. Having said this I have observed footage displaying amazing virtuosity on both the autoharp and bulbul, but for the novice player they do offer fairly instant gratification.

It consists of a fretboard of multiple strings usually tuned to the same note or octaves of each other. There are also lower drone strings that do not get fretted by the rather ingenious key operated fretting mechanism that changes the pitch of the main strings to provide a melody.

This particular instrument came into my possession through a good friend who spotted it in a junk shop and instantly thought of me and my fondness for odd sound making devices. The problem was that it was in pieces and without a name or description. Whatever parts there were, were incomplete.

The first clue was a little piece of paper still attached to the box showing a rather faint diagram of what the instrument was meant to resemble.

Using this and the resources on the Internet, within a couple of weeks a few links were found which provided a name to the instrument and some vague descriptions of how it worked. The crucial bit of information around how the keying mechanism worked, however, remained elusive. There were only a handful of resources sites compared to the many videos and websites that have cropped up since and a series of emails between me and a seller of exotic instruments stopped dead when he discovered I wasn't actually interested in buying anything from him.

The second important lead was when I received an email from a musician friend of mine who knew of my dilemma in rebuilding this instrument and informed me that he had spotted something similar at an acquaintance's house. I abruptly got this person's contact details and paid him a visit.

This guy was a true collector of stringed instruments and I was given a fascinating tour of his collections of zithers, psalteries, guitarras, banjos and yes, there in the corner was a bulbul.
This one was slightly different in that it contained only 3 melody strings, but crucially the spring operated keying system looked very similar.

He very kindly allowed me to borrow his instrument for a couple of weeks so I could carefully take it apart and take some detailed photos and notes. The elegance and simplicity of the key, spring and pivot rod design struck me as so intuitive that I really should have worked it out if there weren't so many original parts missing. Most of these were quite simple to fashion from wire, wood and metal pins.

The final hurdle was the manufacture of the actual keys. There are supposed to be 21 keys but only 7 were present in the odds and ends that I was given. These were quite hardy hand cut metal keys (I suspect this instrument had already been repaired at least once or at least an attempt had been made - to add to the confusion) and I did not want to get into hours of hacksaw and metal file work in order to manufacture the remaining keys, so it was very fortunate that another friend of mine recommended a company that did metal cutting to specification using water jets. I was able to convince them to do the job for a pittance as they could see I was not going into any major mass production manufacture enterprise.

After a few weekends and a ton of assistance from my father, who is far more coordinated than I am and very capable in realm of DIY, it was ready to play. It's a little creaky and some of the keys stick a little but it is really sweet sounding.

It is great to overdub melodies with and the droney-ness of the sound combined with a little reverb really sits well in a mix. You can hear it overdubbed on the songs 'Luminarc' and 'I Will Rise Up' on my album 'Outer Tumbolia'. We have also fitted a guitar pickup to it in order to use it live. I am currently using in a more upfront manner making it a more dominant part in some of the newer material I am writing.

I'll end off this post with a video of a combined bulbul and autoharp performance. If not the most virtuosic performance, it certainly is the most endearing

27 chord autoharp and two Taisho Koto's used in performing Robert Wyatt's 'Alifib'